Although Stars Go Dim found a loyal and growing fan base and garnered a stack of awards for the songs on its introductory EP, the five cuts within barely scratched the surface of what the band had to offer.
Growing organically from the sessions that produced the band's initial trio of songs, which also garnered the group a number of songwriting awards, Stars Go Dim returned with its full length debut, Love Gone Mad. In the course of ten tracks, the band explores the range of emotions when love does just that.
"Even before we had and album title, I knew I wanted to write a song called ‘Love Gone Mad'," guitarist and principal songwriter Joey Avalos revealed, "because there's so many things that could mean."
In the end, it became the title cut for the album, as all the songs within explore love from different points of view: from the infatuation of a new love in "Incredible" and "Crazy" to the struggles of maintaining a relationship in "Where Has Our Love Gone" to realizing it's over, breaking things off, moving on and starting over in "Letting Go," "Walk On" and "Get Over it."
Serendipitously, the band never set out to create an album with such a broad and over arching theme – it all came naturally.
"It's not like we set out to create a concept record," Avalos explained. "We were just writing a bunch of songs. When we came together, we didn't even know what kind of band we were."
Avalos and bassist Michael Wittig, who had worked together previously in more hard-rock based outfit, met with vocalist Chris Cleveland in late 2007 and laid the groundwork for what would become a band with no preconceptions or boundaries. Leaning into their pop and R&B influences, the group produced an initial three song demo that quickly grabbed the attention of music fans and industry alike, garnering the band a host of songwriting and fan-voted awards.
"After the first three song demo came together," Avalos shared, "I basically wrote the rest of the album in two weeks. The theme just came together organically - it's not like I was thinking about it. I probably wrote 20 songs in roughly two weeks and this is what came out of it."
Delving deeper into the album, Avalos reveals "‘Love Gone Mad' is definitely one of my prouder efforts, because I think it really captures that moment where you're losing someone and it's so believable. On that one and ‘Hoping For Tomorrow' you can really hear and feel the words through Chris' vocals."
"I don't claim to be a great vocalist," Avalos explains, "so I try to keep it simple. I'm more concerned with is the song memorable, is it clear, does it tell a story?"
"‘Walk On' is about a guy who got screwed over so many times and ‘Letting Go' is about talking the talk and trying to stand strong. All the songs are tied together, some in hilarious and sad ways," says Avalos.
"Actually, Chris (our singer) laughs that we're writing his life story," he chuckles, "but he's got the gift of being able to make it believable. There's only so much I can do as a writer – the rest is on him."
That authenticity is exactly what allows listeners to connect so strongly with the ten song cycle; a rollercoaster ride through the whirlwind of emotions that encompasses falling in and out of love.
"These songs are my three to four minutes of time to write a book," Avalos explains of his creative approach. "It may not all be based off of true life events, but it's certainly taken from things I've observed. For me, it's like painting: I like to take a moment in time, a snapshot, and try to bring it alive in three minutes."
"I think we succeed in that with ‘Catch Me If You Can'," he continues. "It really encompasses that whole magical moment, hoping tomorrow is the day she'll come back. That's my biggest challenge – to capture those moments."
Even though Avalos is the principal songwriter, it's the chemistry within Stars Go Dim that truly makes it all work. Avalos readily acknowledges this, stating "By myself, I'm just catching moments in time and turning them into still pictures in black and white. When I bring it to Mike and Chris, that's when the band really brings it to life in full color."
Stars Go Dim has a vision that extends beyond simply writing songs and creating an album, however. Once the songs were written and the theme emerged, the band proceeded in its creative process, developing what continues to unfold in the story of Love Gone Mad.
A precursor to the ongoing narrative, which will include additional media and culminate in a book, can be found on the band's website, www.starsgodim.com. The project is a tale of two young lovers with broken and guarded hearts who learn about themselves when they find the love letters of another couple from decades earlier and try to hunt down the rest of the story.
Surely, it's an ambitious undertaking, but one that came naturally for the band. Avalos and bassist Michael Wittig are in concert when agreeing that, "Once we had this theme, we thought ‘How can we make it more interactive – outside the normal scope of a CD?'" Influenced by their love of storytelling and movies, the group continued to think outside the box and develop the story in a manner that would allow fans to become even more involved and connected with the band and its songs.
That relationship with the audience is a primary focus for Stars Go Dim, which has continually provided an open window to the creative process and band members' daily lives with a strong online presence and ongoing written and video blogs. The response has been overwhelming and garnered the band a number of fan-voted honors including the CMT Listener's Choice Songwriter's Award and a slot on the Ernie Ball sponsored Mayercruise 2009, opening for acts such as John Mayer, O.A.R. and Guster. Most recently, the group followed up a win as "Best New Artist" in its hometown Absolute Best of Tulsa Music Awards by garnering 4 nominations and taking home honors for "Album of the Year" in the 2010 awards ceremony.
Complementing the band's prolific creative process, Stars Go Dim is becoming just as well known for its dynamic live show. The group's loyal following has continued to build as a result of its ongoing tour schedule. The band's growing stature ahs also provided opportunities to share the stage with established artists ranging from Mayer, Switchfoot and Daughtry to Sara Bareilles, Natasha Bedingfield, Mike Posner and Hanson.
All the while, the songs from Love Gone Mad have continued to catch people's ears nationwide, whether being played on radio stations in California, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Florida, Oklahoma and New Mexico; being added to playlists in Hollister and Abercrombie stores or garnering television placement in shows on Lifetime, A&E and Fox Sports networks.
While the accolades and rewards have been nice, Wittig makes one thing clear: "We're doing this because of the people. We've gone the extra mile and given a lot of our lives and time to this project and we've done it for the love of the music, but it's also because we genuinely care about people. I was that kid that followed the bands and couldn't wait to see what they did next and I genuinely like meeting the fans and making that connection."
That bond continues to grow as Stars Go Dim not only captures a series of moments in the cycle of love and brings them to life with its songs, but delves even deeper with the ongoing story of Love Gone Mad.